Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Putting out an APB

More than a few NHLers went missing after the lockout and the vast majority of them can be tracked down using

Even those who are no longer in the game, you at least hear about from time to time — Ted Donato's coaching at Harvard, Kamloops' own Stu Grimson has his law degree (!) and PJ Stock's chillin' with Eklund.

There's one player who was still a young guy, just 29 to start this season in fact, who I can't account for and I'm curious if any of my readers know his whereabouts. Former Minnesota Wild enforcer Matt Johnson was a NHL regular for eight seasons before dropping off the face of the planet during the lockout, and he hasn't been playing hockey anywhere since then.

Any one know where Mr. Johnson has gone to? I think everyone else is accounted for.


At 12:43 a.m., January 05, 2006, Anonymous David said...

After shoulder surgery he can't really resume his career in the same role that he played before, and most are saying he's in "virtual retirement".

At 5:19 p.m., January 06, 2006, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Any idea whether Mr. Johnson took a career-ending buyout a la Jon Girard and Dan Blackburn?

At 2:42 a.m., January 07, 2006, Anonymous David said...

The Wild did buyout his contract towards the end of July.

At 2:59 p.m., January 10, 2006, Blogger Djlethal01 said...

BY BRIAN MURPHY, Pioneer Press
July 30, 2005

OTTAWA - One day after parting with Richard Park and Andrew Brunette, the Wild jettisoned another popular player Friday, buying out the contract of enforcer Matt Johnson.

The team also agreed to terms with right wing Alexandre Daigle on a one-year, $850,000 deal that ensures the return of the team's 2003-04 scoring leader. Daigle is expected to sign the contract today.

Johnson, 29, told team officials this week he would not be healthy enough to start training camp in September because the right shoulder injury that required surgery before the lockout had not fully healed.

Johnson said the year off, coupled with physical pounding endured through nine seasons as one of the NHL's toughest fighters, left him yearning for a lifestyle change.

"I just think I'm at a point in my life when I need to focus on other things," he said. "There's nothing greater than playing for the Minnesota Wild. I'm definitely going to miss it. But there are other things I can do than play hockey."

Johnson would not rule out signing with another team. But he conceded that might require another operation on his shoulder, plus more rehabilitation and soul searching.

Teams had until 4 p.m. CDT Friday to buy out players at two-thirds their contract value under a new collective bargaining provision that allows clubs with noncompliant payrolls to clear salary cap space.

Johnson's buyout cost the Wild $585,000. It does not count against the salary cap, and they remain well below the $39 million ceiling. Still, Johnson's intentions left them few options beyond forcing an unhappy player to play out a contract that called for him to earn another $874,000 in 2005-06.

That leaves the Wild significantly weaker in the toughness department, which means they likely will pursue an enforcer on the free-agent market. Derek Boogaard, a 6-foot-7 left wing with the Houston Aeros, could fill that role.

Johnson, 6 feet 5 and 235 pounds, averaged 149 penalty minutes in a career that started with in Los Angeles before a brief stop in Atlanta on his way to the expansion Wild in 2000.

Minnesota allowed him to expand his role. In 2003-04, he established a career high with seven goals in 57 games.

Last year, he filed a grievance against the Wild through the players association seeking compensation during the lockout for his injury. Players who were hurt before the lockout could get paid during the work stoppage. The case is pending.

Yet Johnson had nothing negative to say about the organization. He said he would remain in the Twin Cities as he ponders his future.

"It's difficult to leave something that I've been a part of for four years. It's very emotional," he said. "But I feel really lucky to be part of it at all."

Daigle, 30, could have become an unrestricted free agent Monday. But the 1993 No. 1 overall pick, who flamed out of three other organizations, was intent on returning to the team that signed him as a tryout. He scored 20 goals among 51 points in '03-04.

"We believe in him. That's the main reason he's back," coach Jacques Lemaire said.

Brian Murphy covers the Wild and the NHL. He can be reached at


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